Having a positive mindset is essential to achieving success in life and our relationships with our dogs. Our thoughts can have powerful effects on how we view ourselves, the world around us, and how we react to them.

However, many of us struggle with maintaining a healthy mindset due to bad habits that were learned as we grew up. In this post, LWDG Founder Jo Perrott and LWDG Mindset Coach Emma Liddell explore these bad habits which could potentially be holding you back from reaching your full potential and achieving success.

With an understanding of why these habits are so damaging, you can begin the journey towards creating a healthier outlook on life and unlocking your gundog training potential.

Podcast Edition:

Why Mindset Matters

Hi all, my name is Emma and I am the new Mindset Coach for the LWDG, and I am looking forward to bringing you lots of content about the link between how with think and how this can impact the training with our dogs.

So firstly, what is mindset?

Quite simply our mindset is the lens through which we view the world around us, this lens will be created as a result of all our life experiences up till this point. The most important thing that we can often forget is that as a result of this, our lens will differ from others around us. See it as our own specific window through which we view the world.

As a result of our life experiences, we create groups of beliefs about areas of our life or ourselves. Bear in mind, depending on the situation we are in this may vary drastically, i.e., we may feel very secure and confident in our work but actually quite anxious about new social situations.

These assumptions that we make about ourselves will impact how we think, and respond to challenges we come across in life, how we act with other people, how we choose to set boundaries and how we bounce back from challenges that we face. All very useful things when we apply them to dog training.

The science behind our mindset

Around 70% of the thoughts we have in our daily thinking are negative, I know this doesn’t sound great, but actually, this is cleverly designed to keep us safe. (Remember from a primitive level our body is geared up for survival as a primary function). What it does mean however is with the other 30% it is really important we try and bring balance back as much as possible.

Our brains are fantastic, but in other ways still very primitive and not very evolved, therefore when we think things our brain cannot tell the difference between that and reality. So if my thoughts about myself are perhaps not very nice, thinking that I am not good enough, or not capable, that is what my brain will see as true. That is how powerful our thoughts are!

In psychology we used to think our thoughts and how we view ourselves would be fixed by the age of around 7-8 years, however more recent developments show this to be untrue, what we actually have is ‘neuroplasticity’ the ability to rewire and shape our brains.

Some of us may have heard the old saying ‘neurons that fire together wire together’. Essentially this means the more times we think a certain thought or repeat something to get a similar outcome the stronger that pathway in our brain becomes. Imagine it as laying down a strand in a rope, over time and repetition this can then become a very strong rope with millions of strands holding it together. We therefore really need to be careful what threads we are laying down to create these ropes, some can be wonderful and positive, others not so much if we are really honest with ourselves.

Be honest with yourself

Another analogy I use is that of a diet, after all our diet is not just the food we consume but our entire lifestyle. If you imagine your thoughts as food, are they largely healthy and nutritious, or are they junk that we choose to put into our bodies?

If you are still not sure, try saying those thoughts out loud as if you were saying them to your best friend, partner or child. Does that feel horrifying to you? Then perhaps look at being a little kinder to yourself. Speak to yourself in the same way you would speak to a loved one who is going through the same thing/feelings as you. Trust me it will likely sound a lot kinder!

We also have to be practical; we cannot be everything to everyone at all times. Some times are harder than others and we need to adjust our expectations of ourselves (and our dogs!) accordingly.

Growth and Fixed Mindsets 

In order to change our mindset we often need to move our fixed mindset to one of growth, so what is the difference between the two?

A fixed mindset is one where we feel our abilities or intelligence are finite. This is quite common in those who felt they didn’t perform well in academic settings (which is only one measure of intelligence. It doesn’t measure for other things like compassion etc which are exceptionally useful life skills!). It usually comes with the belief that you are either clever or you are not, and as a result, we may be reluctant to try new things as we are scared of failure. Should we try and fail we often use this as a way of ‘beating ourselves up’ and confirming the belief that we are not clever etc. You can easily see how this can really limit how we end up living our lives.

A growth mindset is a concept that intelligence and skills can be learnt through practice and repetition, that failing is part of trying and learning and growth. As a result of this, we can be willing to take more risks or challenge ourselves in new areas. You will find people in a growth mindset saying things like ‘I’ll figure this out’ or ‘I’ll try and see what I can learn from this’.

What I hear a lot from those with a fixed mindset is ‘I can’t’ – What about if you challenged yourself to understand that statement a little more and said ‘I am choosing not to because’. Often if we look at it that way, we can find out why we feel we cannot do the thing. Often it is ‘I am choosing not to because I am scared of failure/someone will laugh at me’ etc. Perfect! So it’s not that you can’t it that you are scared, this can be overcome!

In summary, we cannot control our lives, our dogs and the challenges that come with them, but we can look to control our mindset and how we respond to our dogs and these challenges. Over the coming weeks, I plan on digging deeper into this to help you understand more about theories of mindset and what we can do to overcome them.

Join the LWDG Team on your journey of understanding more about you so we can get the best from your life and your relationship with your dogs.

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Also worth reading Psychology Today : Why Mindset Matters

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